As concerns about climate change continue to escalate, the search for effective solutions has become more pressing than ever. While reducing carbon emissions is crucial, it may not be enough to mitigate the damage already done. The new conversation has been about carbon negative technologies and practices, a concept that goes beyond mere carbon neutrality.
Let's dive in with Biology 101.
When we breathe, we take in oxygen and we breathe out carbon-dioxide. Plants take in carbon dioxide during the day and release oxygen at night through the process of photosynthesis (converting carbon-dioxide and water to sugar and oxygen). Yes?
With large-scale deforestation, there are now fewer trees and with that, there is more carbon dioxide in our environment. In addition, each of us make a daily environmental impact by our lifestyle choices.
The Nature Conservatory laments that the average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world, compared to 4 tons globally.
So how can we attempt to slow down and limit future global warming to below 2°C?
To take a stand, 16-year old global warming activist, Greta Thunberg took a sail boat across the Atlantic to showcase urgency for climate crisis. There have been many climate change protests since then.
While we may not cut travel all together, the truth is that we can all chip in by making small practical changes to our actions - like biking to work, being vegetarian or vegan, taking less connecting flights and line drying your clothes.
There is no question that our individual emissions are damaging our earth's climate. But today's conversation is about something bigger. While making a small change in our lives help a tiny bit, the real problem lies with larger, more global corporations (Chevron, Exxon Mobile, BP, China (Coal), Saudi Arabia Aramco, National Iranian Oil, and Royal Dutch Shell, etc.) that produce or use petrol, jet fuel, natural gas, and thermal coal and then emit carbon and methane into the atmosphere throughout the supply chain, from extraction to end use.
The conversation in the last decade has been about the carbon that these companies emit and if there are ways for them to reduce those emissions.
According to journalist Douglas Starr who wrote an article in 2016 for Science (a publication of AAAA), companies are now conducting environmental impact statements, creating carbon-sensitive policies, and increasing their financing of renewable energy projects.
This is a good thing. Climate-savvy folks (like me, and now, hopefully you) are looking for some real system-wide initiatives from companies around environmentalism. This basically means that we want companies to improve their sustainability efforts and offset (via payments) or preferably - directly reduce the emissions they produce.
We call this behavior, carbon-neutral.
That sounds like a good thing. It does, because it is.
Carbon neutrality however needs research and development. Businesses are struggling to find solutions to this issue but research institutes are helping. For example, here in California, the University of California has its own Carbon Neutrality Initiative where they are working on providing scalable solutions by 2025.
Since this conversation has been going on for at least a decade, we are already seeing some companies doing their bit. So which companies are being responsible?
Levi Strauss has created a 'Care Tag for Our Planet' where they encourage consumers to wash their jeans less. They have also partnered with EvrNu to create their jeans from new fiber made from discarded cotton shirts. Nike has a line of sustainable products made of recycled materials. IBM has smart buildings. Siemens is going carbon-neutral by optimizing energy costs, employing low-emission vehicles and increasing its use of renewable energy such as natural gas and wind power that emit very little or no carbon-dioxide.
foam with paper cups.
Google is buying mostly renewable energy.
Coca Cola is only sourcing ingredients from sustainable agriculture supply chains.
Car companies are making electric vehicles or cars that lower fuel consumption and carbon emissions.